The Planning Commission gave the green light for a sprawling dispensary with an on-site smoking lounge, over neighborhood concerns that it would be too big and upscale.


What is currently the Blu Dot furniture shop on Valencia Street between 16th and 17th Streets will not be the Blu Dot furniture shop anymore when its lease expires this coming June. But green may mark that spot instead, as Mission Local reports that last week the SF Planning Commission unanimously approved an authorization for a cannabis dispensary, along with a smoking lounge, at that particular site. At 4,984 square feet, the dispensary would be even larger than the sizable Moe Greens at Ninth and Market. That size was a major point of contention of the highly divided, nearly two-hour public comment session, with one commenter calling the new dispensary “the Macy’s of cannabis, it will be so darned big it will put the other shops out of business.”

From the looks of its website, the proposed dispensary will be called 560 Valencia, which is sort of similar sounding to the 826 Valencia youth-focused writing hub down the street, and some commenters complained that the site is uncomfortably close to youth nonprofits Arab Youth Organization, and Mission Graduates.

“Neighborhood families have told us that the Mission has seen an abundance of cannabis retail shops in the community, the most recent increase being lounges,” Lucia Obregon of Mission Economic Development Agency said in the public comment sessions. “There is a sentiment that there should be opportunity for the cannabis industry to be spread evenly across other neighborhoods.”

Image: SF Planning

There is a smoking lounge (they prefer to be called “consumption lounges”) at Mission Cannabis Club (20th and Mission), and there’s slated to be one at a forthcoming dispensary called Union Station (16th and Mission).  So that’s three in a fairly small radius, but a similar cluster that exists around Ninth and Mission Streets. But as you can see from the Planning Commission map above, where pre-2018 dispensaries are shown in red and the newer ones in yellow, Mission and Valencia Streets do not constitute the biggest cluster of pot dispensaries in the city.

Before voting to approve, commissioner Sue Diamond said that “Saturation should be handled in legislation, not in individual case approval or denial.”

The bigger issue for opponents seemed to be the owner himself, real estate attorney and investor Will Dolan, who has three other dispensary applications in the pipeline. Dolan does have a marijuana arrest on his record, which brings him into compliance with the SF Office of Cannabis equity program, but commenters complained that Dolan’s background didn’t meet the spirit of the law.

United to Save the Mission activist Larisa Pedroncelli called for a “a full equity analysis” of that policy, saying that “The intent of the program was to foster equitable participation in the cannabis industry, and [was] not intended to assist those with a wealth of opportunities to establish successful businesses and careers and connections to capital.”

Dolan has sweetened the deal with a “Cannabis Equity Marketplace,” that is, an area where up-and-coming equity retailers can set up retail shop rent-free on his premises. Dolan also insisted he’ll hire staff and management from within the neighborhood, and pay each of his projected 40 employees a minimum of $20 an hour.

This debate goes to a philosophical question about SF’s cannabis equity policy. Let’s say you got popped for selling weed in high school, can you still be an equity applicant if, as a grown adult, you’re very wealthy? The answer is complicated.

The Office of Cannabis does employ Asset Test Requirements that bar applicants with high net worths from receiving an equity permit. The formula is complex, and applicants need to have net assets that are below "three times the 80% median unadjusted area median income for the previous year, by Household size." That total is currently as low as $215,100 for a household of one, or as high as $430,500 for a household of nine. Other considerations of factors like stock holdings or retirement accounts also apply.

While the proposed 560 Valencia dispensary received its Planning Commission conditional use authorization to proceed on the shop, the space would still need approval for the SF Office of Cannabis and the state Bureau of Cannabis Control. According to Mission Local, the shop is planning to open in “early 2022.”

NOTE: This post has been updated with additional information on Asset Test Requirements.

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Image: Blu Dot via Yelp